Meet the Boss: Brutus

One of the boss monsters I used recently, this guy is taken from the excellent multiplatform ARPG Path of Exile. Originally a human prison warden, he was experimented upon by a sadistic wizard who transformed him into a hulking monstrosity. Ripping with muscle more than any natural creature should, Brutus smashed his fists into masses of pulp during a bout of anger. His only weapon aside from his inhuman strength is a hook on a chain wrapped around his arm, which he uses to reel in distant victims. He wears little more than tattered rags and the remains of restraints used during his transformation.

ST: 35      HP: 35      Speed: 7
DX: 12     Will: 13   Move: 10
IQ: 9        Per: 10
HT: 14     FP: 18      SM: +1

Dodge: 11 Parry: 13 DR: 8

Punch (18): 4d+3 crushing. Reach C, 1.
Grapple (18): 4d-1 control. Reach C, 1.
Hook Throw (18): 4d-1 impaling. Ranged, with Acc 0, Max 20, Bulk -2, Shots T(1). On a hit, apply control points to the target equal to damage rolled. The hook remains stuck in the victim; Brutus can’t use that arm to attack others without relinquishing the grapple. Breaking the grapple gets rid of the hook.
Get Over Here!: Brutus reels in a hooked victim. If the their Lifting ST is 17 or lower, he can reel them in 10 yards per turn, or 5 yards per turn if it’s 35 or lower, or a yard per turn if it’s 52 or lower. This counts as an attack but is automatically successful.
Unhook (18): Rips the hook out of a victim for 4d-1 cutting damage. On a miss, the victim remains hooked, but on a successful dodge or parry (can’t be blocked) the victim manages to “maneuver” the hook out harmlessly.
Ground Slam (18): Brutus smashes his pulped fist into the ground, causing a shockwave in a 5-yard-wide, 5-yard-long cone. 4d+3 crushing, double knockback. Costs 2 FP per use.

Traits: Bad Temper (12); Combat Reflexes; Extra Attack 2; High Pain Threshold; Nictitating Membrane 4; Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction 2; Infravision; Peripheral Vision; Unfazeable.
Skills: Brawling-18; Dual-Weapon Attack (Brawling)-18.
Class: Mundane.
Notes: Can parry twice, once with each arm. Arms count as weapons. Unwilling to negotiate.

This writeup is for use with Fantastic Dungeon Grappling. If you do not use this supplement (which you should reconsider!), ignore the control damage of Grapple and Hook Throw, and the victim of a successful Hook Throw is automatically grappled.

Brutus opens fights with a Hook Throw or a Ground Slam, depending on the positioning of the party. He is smart enough to use his hook against physically weaker delvers or those without shields, and only uses ground slam on fewer than two opponents if knocking them away would be important. He can make three attacks per round and usually performs one of them as a Dual-Weapon Attack (smashing someone between his fists), or a Rapid Strike if he’s grappling a delver with his hook. He doesn’t grapple much otherwise, but grabbing someone and smashing them into a wall or floor could be fun. Don’t forget to spend any remaining control points when ripping out the hook! Lastly, mind his high HT score; it is here primarily to resist HT-contested spells. You will likely want to do your players a favor and just kill him once he’s the last foe remaining and deep into negative HP, instead of dragging the fight out.

I originally used Brutus against a party of seven ~300 point delvers and he had about half a dozen weaker monsters with him, one of which was a tougher “worthy” while the remainder were a bit stronger “fodder” (fodder drops at 0  HP in my games and worthies at -1 x HP). He is a bit on the low end of the boss monster “protections” I wrote about previously: half DR on eyes (as formalized by Nictitating Membrane), halves all injury due to the Injury Tolerance and can defend against attacks from behind due to Peripheral Vision. None of these (except maybe for Injury Tolerance) are the result of “special” features of his physiology, they are there to make him live long enough as a boss monster. He doesn’t have the active defenses to be fielded as a solo boss against the party I used him against. To do that I’d halve the penalties he suffers on multiple attacks and parries (he doesn’t need any extra damage so I wouldn’t give him flat out Weapon Master), raise his skill to 20, give him another level of Extra Attack and figure out another defensively-useful ability.

Care and feeding of boss monsters

Recently in my Dungeon Fantasy game I had a couple encounters against big, strong “boss monsters”. Designing such adversaries for any flavor of GURPS is a tough challenge, especially if they are intended to be encountered alone, so I’d like to share some thoughts on the matter.

If treated without any additional considerations than those usually afforded to ordinary monsters or player characters, “boss monsters” could easily be taken down in a turn or two by an average Dungeon Fantasy party. For example, there’s a good chance of them failing to dodge a knife throw or arrow into the eye. Without Nictitating Membrane which normally only rare monsters have or No Brain which is usually only found with some demons, undead and slimes (you don’t want to make a slime boss monster btw.), a damage roll of 5 is enough to cause a major wound even to a 40-HP monster necessitating a HT-10 roll for them not to drop out of the fight. Then if the melee is joined and the monster takes up more than 1 hex, it is very easy to pile up on their back hexes (they will have multiple) and make short work of them. And so on. The action economy and support for “real” moves like targeting vulnerable hit locations make big solo monsters have a hard time. While such gameplay is fine in some campaigns, Dungeon Fantasy and more cinematic games usually want their big bad bosses to put up a terrifying, memorable fight lasting more than a couple turns. The usual wisdom is to have enough supporting adversaries in the battle so that the player characters’ actions and resources are split, but sometimes you just want to have a singular boss. And you don’t want them to always be one of the few kinds of creatures that patch up the above mentioned and other commonly encountered problems with rare traits usually assigned only to them.

So what can we do to make our bosses survive long enough to cause some drama? The solution I came to prefer lately is to notch up the “cinematicness” of the bosses in regards to what abilities or even campaign switches they have available in comparison with “normal” opponents. It still makes them work within the established GURPS framework, but in some cases you will need to talk with your players so they know what they can expect. Some things you could do are:

  • Unless their schtick is a high Dodge, the boss needs a lot of active defenses. Having just two parries, or just a parry and a block can’t compete with a whole party unless they have high skill (~20) and the equivalent of Weapon Master for the reduced iterative penalties. You don’t have to give them full-on WM if you worry about applying it faithfully and the extra damage it would bring, after all you don’t build monsters with points so having the iterative parry/block penalty halved can just be a note in your monster listing. If that isn’t enough because you have a large party, go ahead and outright increase their active defense scores just like players would with Enhanced Defense advantages (don’t go overboard though). You can also simply give the boss more than two active defenses, though personally I prefer to do that only if the boss has extra arms or another thematically appropriate ability. In some cases, multiple active defenses will be good enough without the reduced iterative penalty. Your mileage will vary.
  • I have heard of house rules where closed-face helmets give half of their DR to eye shots, so you could apply that. Even if your monster does not wear a helmet, they may have a “protective, reinforced brow” or whatever. This is basically what a Nictitating Membrane does, and the idea is to broaden the applicability of the effect instead of just keeping it restricted to reptiles or amphibians or whatever. Keeping your monster’s traits “realistic” keeps the monster realistic, and boss monsters don’t really fit that paradigm. Providing half of the DR they’d normally have is also consistent with chinks in armor.
  • Give your bosses Peripheral Vision. This is especially important for those that take up multiple hexes. If you have concerns about your monster not having the appropriate physiology to warrant it, the advantage isn’t tagged as “exotic” in the Basic Set and could simply be treated as excellent situational awareness. If you require precedent, three of the player character templates in GURPS Monster Hunters offer it and two of those are completely “mundane”.
  • In a lot of cases boss monsters will require an “extreme survivability” feature, such as Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction) or Regeneration (Extreme). Be careful how you combine such traits with previously existing ones, for example if a monster already has Injury Tolerance (No Brain, No Vitals), adding Damage Reduction on top could very easily be overkill. If you’re worried about “appropriate” advantages, I’d recommend Damage Reduction as something that can simply be slapped on to any kind of creature as a “cinematic boss monster survivability switch”.
  • If you don’t want your boss to slow down when below 1/3 HP, Injury Tolereance (Unstoppable) which does exactly that was priced at “only” 10 points in Monster Hunters: Power-Ups 1.

The above features are something you could reasonably apply to any kind of boss monster. Personally I would always go with the first three (I see the first one as absolutely indispensable) while the latter two I’d apply or not depending on how the monster already looks like. There is still more you could do; a good boss monster should likely have some kind of ability that makes it tricky to engage them, such as being hit at a penalty, having a damaging aura, causing a lot of knockback etc., but you probably won’t want every boss to have them.

I originally wanted to include at least one monster writeup in this post but that would make it too long now. Look for it in the coming days. In the meantime, an excellent example of boss monster design is the Krabbari demon from Hall of Judgement. It is a “big tough guy” that not only has an array of physically intimidating characteristics but also has some magical ones, can do multiple things per turn (as every boss should) and even offers an “off” switch for its strongest defensive ability that can only be exploited by a type of character usually considered underpowered in a fight compared to their peers.

State of the games

My Hidden Suns campaign, which was the primary motivator for starting this blog, has ended. Not from a lack of interest or a TPK as has mostly been the case in my gaming career, but we actually played it until the end of its story. It started as a sandboxy Dungeon Fantasy in Space, but a month or so after I last wrote about it, the players lost interest in the sandbox without an overarching story so we sat together to see how we’d want to proceed. Not wanting to scrap the large amount of effort I invested in preparing the materials for the campaign, we decided to switch to the Dead Suns Starfinder adventure path from Paizo, which was the original adventure I intended to run before I caught the Dungeon Fantasy bug. It path started off rather well, but at about half of the third of six books the quality of the published adventure took a nosedive, resulting with me often coming up with scenarios which were more sensible than the ones published. We ended up compressing much of the second half of the campaign because the as originally written, it was often short circuited by smart play. Life being short, me wanting to run a lot of different stuff, and somewhat disappointed by Paizo’s materials, it was decided already before the adventure’s conclusion that we would be ending our time in the Starfinder universe once we play through the published story. And that we did last week, having replaced the final book with something completely different because the players of course did not stick with the script the authors intended. I am still a fan of taking published adventures for various systems and running them in GURPS, but an important thing I learned this time around is that you really have to read the entire campaign before committing to running it, lest the quality of its writing takes a bait and switch somewhere during the run. As it stands, I can’t recommend Dead Suns unless you’re prepared to replace large pieces of it.

After presenting my players with several new campaign ideas, we settled on visiting Star Wars next. It will however be my own alternate version of the setting, set in the Old Republic period approximately at the time of the SWTOR MMO. I hope to write more about it here soon.

My GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game, Lair of The Invincible Legion of Evil, which grew out after a oneshot, is still going strong. I intend to run it for a couple more months however, because I want to try a similar open game concept in another setting.

One other thing I have learned in the meantime is that I’m unfortunately not the kind of guy who can write detailed reports about his sessions. I tried a somewhat condensed approach as you can see in this post (it recaps the first 5 sessions, and we’ve just had our 34th!), but that didn’t work out either. I still want to write about my games, but it will either have to be in a very summarized format or something entirely else. We’ll see. One big reason why I’d like to do it is that both the players and myself would have a reminder of the most important things which happened and which were discovered during the game. I haven’t been taking proper GM notes for a looong time, and this could be a nice way to start doing it again.

Spellslinging for Wizards

Players and GMs alike sometimes don’t like the cast – (aim) – attack cadence of 2-3 rounds for missile spells cast by wizards using the default GURPS magic system.  It is similar to the draw – (aim) – shoot mechanic for archers with Fast-Draw (Arrow), but while the latter can be circumvented by investing into Heroic Archer and Weapon Master (Bow), the former can’t. For a lot of games that is fine, it flavors this kind of casters not as artillery platforms but as utility casters, buffers/debuffers, crowd controllers and those who sometimes bring the whole house down before fainting due to spending all of their FP on a fat spell. And in some games archers really do shoot once every 3 rounds while melee combatants don’t hit every round or maybe even (gasp) evaluate.

In other cases, players would rather do something else than 2 rounds of nothing but stepping and then unleashing their spell on the third. Sure, a lot of regular spells have a cast lime longer than 1 second, but those can be brought down with high skill, especially at the point levels of Dungeon Fantasy. Missile and Melee spells can’t. When this is perceived as a problem, GURPS sourcebooks don’t really offer much except switching to another magic system, such as for example Sorcery. So let’s see what can be done about it.

Let’s start with the Spellslinger advantage, worth 25 points, published by Christopher Rice in Pyramid #3-66. It is intended for use with the Ritual Path Magic so it doesn’t completely suit the default magic system, but it has some parts which can be ported to spells-as-skills quite literally:

  • It effectively lets the character claim Accuracy for a spell without aiming
  • It lets them use the Mighty Spell perk from GURPS Thaumatology: Magical Styles with all spells
  • For spells requiring both a casting roll and an attack roll, it lets them cast the spell and attack with it in a single round instead over a course of two, albeit at a penalty equal to that for performing Rapid Strikes.

It also facilitates casting blocking spells with RPM which is hard in that system but not an issue with default magic, and it lets the caster use DX-based path skills instead of Innate Attack to hit. The former could, if the GM deems it necessary, be replaced with allowing the character to apply the Blocking Spell Mastery perk to all of their spells, just like they may already do with Mighty Spell. The latter is a bit trickier to port to spells-as-skills magic, since using a DX-based spell skill instead of Innate Attack would not really be advantageous for most wizards. Even with Magery applying to spells but not to Innate Attack, most spells only ever get one point put into them and the difference between a spellcaster’s IQ and DX is generally rather significant. Another option would be to use standard IQ-based spell skills to attack, but personally I’m leery of it as being too strong. A middle ground would be to apply Magery as a bonus to Innate Attack. That isn’t far fetched since it already works that way for Sorcery.

Spellslinger is a nice option with several dials to turn according to taste, but the penalty to cast and attack in a single round could make it unattractive to some. That is of course yet another dial to turn, but let’s see what else is out there.

Compartmentalized Mind taken with No Mental Separation, -20% and Limited, Magic, -5% for 38 points would let a character both cast a spell and attack with it on the same turn, without any kind of penalty. But it also effectively doubles the casting rate of the character for all spells since it allows two Concentrate maneuvers per turn for the purposes of casting. This may be too much.

We could increase Limited to “only Missile and Melee spells” and eyeball it at -30%. That would be more in line with what we want at a cost of 25 points, the same as Spellslinger. We get rid of the Rapid Strike penalty, but also miss out on some other benefits. Again, adjust to personal taste.

The final variant I’d like to discuss is a “native” feature of the GURPS Magic system. High skill reduces the casting time of spells, but not of Missile and Melee spells. If we have a problem with not attacking every round, we can easily ignore this exception. We’ll also ignore the technicalities of the case, such as these spells actually having a casting time of 1 below which reduction through high skill is impossible. Just smooth it over with “high skill reduces the time needed to cast and attack with Missile and Melee spells, down to 1 second for the attack itself”.

So at skill 20 a character could both cast the spell and attack with it on the same turn. At skill 25 they could also aim “for free” or invest additional energy into that fireball. Once more, a GM should turn the dials as they prefer. I would personally not allow the reduction for investing additional energy in spells but would allow the reduction for aiming.

The nice thing about this approach is that it doesn’t make special snowflakes out of Missile and Melee spells but instead handles them the same as all others (including jet spells, which complete the trinity of typical attack magic). Sure, mages must invest points to get spells to level 20, and I doubt any will go for 25, but that’s no different than with the Spellslinger and Compartmentalized Mind solutions. Of the three, I am most inclined to use this one in my Dungeon Fantasy game.

Martial Artist buffs for Dungeon Fantasy

The Martial Artist profession in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy (and Dungeon Fantasy RPG) has long been known for having a lot of problems when it comes to their primary role of whacking stuff on the head. Unlike any other combative profession, they must take extra care not to injure themselves while attacking, their performance at 250 points is lackluster and they need a lot of additional points to get reliably good at fighting. Motivated by my observations and player experience during my Dungeon Fantasy campaign, I decided to introduce some changes.

Big thanks to Kyle Norton of Dungeons on Automatic for ideas and bringing the building blocks to my attention.

My solution consists of the following:

1. Trained by a Master costs 5 points and is just an “enabler” for chi abilities.

It lets you buy all of the skills such as Power Blow etc. which have it as prerequisite in the Basic Set, as well as Chi Talent and the various abilities with the Chi, -10% modifier.

It also allows you to make a Per roll with a bonus equal to your Chi Talent level to detect when you enter a space with “broken chi”. These are places where the natural order is disturbed, such as heavily polluted areas (but not merely urbanized ones or most others viewed as unnatural by Druids), places under the influence of Elder Things or where reality itself is somehow disturbed. Low/no mana zones, unholy places or those affected by extraplanar energies specifically don’t qualify, since such things all have their place in the order of the world. Vacuum would also qualify, but is unlikely to be encountered by delvers and is otherwise highly noticeable.

2. Chi Talent costs 10 points per level, but is otherwise unchanged.

This makes TBAM and Chi Talent functionally the same as Magery, both in benefits offered, cost and effect. It seemed rather odd that Martial Artists paid 15 points for their power talent while Wizards, Clerics and Druids paid only 10 while getting its bonus to a lot more skills. I could have just left TBAM being an Unusual Background without the extra detection benefit, but it felt unfair to me to be charging points for it when Magery 0 offered the same plus the detection of magic items.

Clerics and Druids, by the way, don’t have such a “gateway” advantage yet still have a similar detection benefit and get access to loads of skills you normally can’t access, all rolled into their power talent. In fact, a technically correct solution would be to increase the cost of Magery and Power Investiture to 15 per level because that’s the cost of talents that affect so many skills, but that would cause too many ripple effects and I’m a fan of “buffing” underperforming traits with patch notes instead of “nerfing” the overperformers.

3. Martial Artists get Weapon Master (Unarmed) [25] as a mandatory advantage on their template.

Together with TBAM this costs exactly the same as before, gives all the same benefits, but also give Martial Artists an additional +2 damage per die if they have Karate at DX+2 or more, cumulative with Karate’s innate bonus for a total of +4 per die.

I have not made a permanent decision for my campaign yet, but I would currently not allow the per die bonuses to damage from Karate and Weapon Master to stack with further ones such as those from Claws and Seven Secret Kicks (GURPS DF11) or Unarmed Master (Pyramid 3/61). Speaking of the latter…

4. Martial Artists get Rules Exemption (Cannot hurt self) as an optional perk on their template.

This is what gives Unarmed Master the component of not hurting oneself with unarmed strikes anymore. The perk has TBAM or Weapon Master (Unarmed) as prerequisite.

I have included it as optional and not mandatory primarily not to mess with the total point cost of the Martial Artist template. Theoretically, you could build a Martial Artist who focuses on weapons instead of unarmed skills, but this being just a perk is a steal even in that case. Martial artists wielding weapons? Well…

5. Martial Artists get Weapon Master (Martial Artist weapons) [35] as an optional advantage on their template.

This replaces Weapon Master (Unarmed), and includes it. Martial artist stereotypes in fiction often use much more than their bare hands. This enables such builds.

Weapons covered are baton, blowpipe, bo, brass knuckles, cestus, club, hatchet, heavy sling, javelin, jo, jutte, kama, katar, knobbed club, kusari, large katar, large throwing knife, monk’s spade, naginata, nunchaku, quarterstaff, sai, short baton, short spear, short staff, shortsword, sling, small falchion, small throwing knife, shuriken, spear, throwing dart, tonfa, unarmed strikes and grapples.

Add Polearm, Spear and Thrown Weapon (Spear) to the list of primary skills Martial Artists may choose from.

This list only includes weapons published in the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. Additional weapons may be included at the GM’s leisure.

Some of these weapons may be used with the Karate skill. Karate adds its per die damage bonus to weapon attacks only if they deal thrust damage.

And that’s it. TBAM has always seemed off to me, costing more points than Weapon Master (Unarmed) but missing the damage bonus. Sure, Karate has an innate damage bonus, but doing purely thrust attacks with unarmed strikes doesn’t really amount to much even with that. Effectively doubling that bonus through these changes puts Martial Artists on a much more even footing with other fighter-types, and hurting yourself when attacking really isn’t something you should worry about in Dungeon Fantasy.

Note that this solution makes Unarmed Master, Claws (Blunt) and Seven Secret Kicks redundant. Well, Seven Secret Kicks can be repriced to 2 points and be bought just for the Kicking technique.

Loot distribution in Lair of The Invincible Legion of Evil

Because of its open drop in / drop out format, Lair of the Invincible Legion of Evil requires a non-standard loot distribution system with some things abstracted in order to make it fair for all participating players. For the purposes of these rules, a “delve” is a single journey to and from the dungeon, beginning and ending in Caverntown. A single delve may last for multiple sessions, and different characters may be present on each of those sessions as part of the same party, their exchange between the sessions simply handwaived away. Loot is distributed within the scope of individual delves, with all characters participating in a delve for at least one session getting a portion of the proceeds. Characters who weren’t present for a specific delve do not get to take part in its loot distribution.

The basics

  • Will be tracked on a Google Sheet.
  • On each session, characters present for that session decide among themselves who gets to keep which item, among the items found during that session. Keeping useful items a character can’t reasonably use isn’t allowed (no hoarding).
  • All other items get thrown into the “pot” to be sold after the delve is completed.
  • All loot retrieved from the dungeon is converted into $. See below how the nominal $ value of items is determined.
  • Each character gets a take ($) in proportion to how many sessions of the delve they were present for. Total delve take is based on sale price of items which itself is a percentage of the nominal value adjusted for Wealth (see below).
  • Low-value items left in the pot can be directly kept by any character present for the delve.
  • More valuable items (magical ones, very high value nonmagical gear) from the pot get put up for auction (see below).
  • The sale price of any item directly kept by a character (during a session or from the pot) gets deduced from their take.
  • Caverntown gate tax (based on nominal worth of items) is applied to each character’s take in proportion to how many sessions of the delve they were present.
  • After this process each character must pay a single weekly Cost of Living (150$) unless they can avoid it (see below).

Determining the nominal value of items

  • For most loot except coins and completely off-the-rack items, knowing their value is not automatic.
  • For such items, a character present on the session may roll the appropriate skill when the item is found, but if no present characters have the appropriate skill, after the delve the GM will roll for the character with highest skill who participated in the delve.
  • On success, the item will be sold at the appropriate price. On a failure, it will be sold at a sub-par price determined by the GM (not by a lot on an ordinary failure, but very underpriced on a crit miss).
  • Each class of items requires a different skill, as per DF2 p. 14 or DFRPGE p. 74-79. The GM will tell you which skills to roll.

Adjusting the take for Wealth

  • Wealthy characters increase the whole take for the delve in proportion to their level of Wealth and how many sessions they attended.
  • A reaction roll is made for the delver with highest Wealth for each session, on 16 or more their Wealth effectively increases by 1 (up to Very Wealthy) for that session only for the purpose of the above calculation.
    • If noone has Wealth for a given session, roll for the person with the best reaction bonus.

Valuable item auctions

  • Starting price will be the sale price of the item as determined on the take sheet.
  • Bidding will be in increments set by the GM individually for each item (you can count on a minimum increment of 100$).
  • Auctions will last for about a week of real time after a delve’s last session. Items without bids end up being sold in Caverntown (this is alrady included in the takes above; winning an auction effectively means compensating other delvers for the portion of the take they would “lose” if the item wasn’t sold).
  • We’ll still have to see how exactly we’re gonna do this, options are in the game’s channel on the GURPS Discord server, or through Google Forms and Sheets (place bids though the form and see all placed bids on the sheet)

Avoiding the weekly Cost of Living

The following options are available:

  • A successful Urban Survival roll. Failure still avoids CoL but the character also starts their next delve with 1d HP injury. It can’t be healed by First Aid since it is considered that it has already been applied.
  • Rolling 14 or less if you have Clerical Investment. You must pay CoL on failure.
  • Serving a week in the Town Watch:
    • Roll 3d. On 3 or 18 the character starts their next delve with 2d HP of injury (~1% chance). On 4-5 and 16-17, with 1d HP (~8%), on 6-7 and 14-15 with 1 HP (~22%). As for Urban Survival, this can’t be healed by First Aid.

Using Survival (Underground) is not possible because you’d have to camp in the tunnels outside of Caverntown and would get eaten by monsters.

Lair of The Invincible Legion of Evil campaign prospectus

This is an update of the original campaign prospectus for my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy open game. It is no longer a limited series mini-campaign, but will instead go on for as long as there is interest.

  • Campaign Name: Lair of The Invincible Legion of Evil
  • GM: Myself
  • Start Date: ~ 2018-09-22
  • Genre/Ruleset: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy
  • Themes: Focus is planned to be equally on combat and dungeon exploration.
  • Tech Level: TL3 with some TL4 elements (Dungeon Fantasy)
  • Power Level: 275 points, awarding 1-3 CP per session
  • Realism Level (Grittily Realistic / Realistic / Cinematic / Over-the-Top): Cinematic
  • Medium/Technology: Text-only in Roll20. Characters should be submitted in GCS. Communication between sessions via the GURPS Discord server. Games will be announced in the #game-legion-of-evil channel, and I encourage you to join the “legion” group by typing ?rank legion in the Discord because I ping that group during announcements.
  • Campaign Synopsis: You’re a previously acquainted band of adventurers based out of Caverntown, a fortified underground settlement and hub for adventures in the surrounding dungeons and subterranean tunnel networks. The town is a cosmopolitan center where many kinds of folks mingle, focused around a service industry catering to adventurers.

    Recently, you’ve come into possession of directions leading to a lost dungeon complex. A group of powerful villains calling themselves The Invincible Legion of Evil (TM) constructed a complex consisting of multiple individual dungeons connected by caverns as a staging ground for their attacks against the Kingdom and the forces of Good. However, only half a dozen years after construction was complete and the complex fully staffed, internal bickering and a happenstance intervention from an adventuring party resulted in the villains either being destroyed or running into hiding, and their troops disbanding.

    That was several generations ago, and the location of the complex was since lost… until now. You have heard of this dungeon before, of the villains’ riches and magical items still left somewhere inside. When you noticed a crazed prospector rambling about finding the way to one of the supposed back entrances of the complex, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up, even in case his info was wrong. You bought a map to the place from the guy, and set out on your journey.

  • Format: Open game with freely drop in/out play. No lasting commitment required, attend as often as you like or can. Characters can be switched in or out on a per session basis without a lot of fuss through blatant retcons, reinforcements however implausible, etc. Even if your character wasn’t present on every session, they are aware of what has passed as if they were there the wole time. Games take place a couple of times a month, each individually advertised about a week in advance. Attendance is on a first come, first serve basis with a maximum of 5 players per session. I’m also taking on last-minute players if unfilled slots remain.

  • Important Notes
    • Characters should be submitted at least several days before a session so I have time to approve them and request possible adjustments. In case we don’t manage to finalize your character in time for a session, you may choose between playing your character with the traits I objected to simply stripped out, or playing a pregen.
    • Players who join in the last minute without a preapproved character will be able to choose from a small roster of pregenerated characters.
    • I allow a generous degree of changing a character’s traits during the first couple of sessions as you get a better feel for them, especially if you were in a hurry to finish writing them up, as long as you don’t change the concept significantly. If you played a pregen for your first session, you may both modify the character drastically or replace them with a completely different one the next time, and carry over your earned CP and loot.
    • Shopping and character improvement are resolved via Discord between sessions.
    • Due to the freely drop in/out nature of the campaign, loot distribution will follow a model based on shares, with any kept items coming out of your share.
    • You will be able to return to town any time you like between sessions (unless you end a session locked up somewhere, but I don’t plan on causing that myself). That might not always be a good idea however, since alerting an organized force of bad guys without wiping them out will allow them to regroup and be better prepared for your next encounter.
  • Social Contracts
    • I do not support intra-party conflict of any kind besides reasonably roleplayed in-character disagreements. Don’t steal from party members. Don’t pull pranks on them unless you know the other player would like to engage with you in such roleplay. And definitively don’t do anything more serious than that. In the best of such cases I will flat out refuse your actions and ask you not to continue that course, or remove you from the game in the worst. The idea is for the the players collaborating to achieve a common goal and have a fun time doing it.
    • No solo acts. If you want to wander off and do your own thing without the rest of the party (except stuff like scouting ahead, doh), the result will simply be you missing out on playtime.
    • No rules lawyering. I am willing to hear rules disputes, especially since I haven’t run a GURPS game which isn’t radically house ruled for a long time, but in order to facilitate quick play I will not let such things turn into discussions and waste playtime.
  • Setting
    • General Info: The campaign takes place within the titular Lair of The Invincible Legion of Evil, a complex of dungeons connected by caverns and other interesting underground biomes. It is a (probably magically) hidden area only a couple of days away from Caverntown, a fortified underground settlement and hub for adventures in the surrounding dungeons and subterranean tunnel networks. The town is a cosmopolitan center where many kinds of folks mingle, focused around a service industry catering to adventurers.
    • Currency: GURPS $, keep it simple
    • Major Centers of Power
      • Caverntown
        • Ruler: The Mayor. Owes fealty to The King.
        • Population: ~50000, 3/4 of which taken up by humans, dwarves and gnomes in equal measure. The remaining 1/4 is “everybody else”, including a wide range of exotica.
        • Terrain: Cavern
        • Hygiene: Clean (public sewage & plumbing)
        • Mana: Normal
        • Languages: Common, Dwarven, Gnome, Halfling
        • Literacy: Mostly literate
  • GURPS Books Used
    • Basic Set
    • Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers
    • Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons
    • Dungeon Fantasy 3: The Next Level
    • Dungeon Fantasy 4: Sages
    • Dungeon Fantasy 7: Clerics
    • Dungeon Fantasy 11: Power Ups
      • Every single power up will need to be individually approved by the GM.
        I do not recommend to base your character concept on a power up or otherwise get emotionally invested prior to approval.
    • Dungeon Fantasy 12: Ninja
    • Dungeon Fantasy 14: Psi
      • Instead of essentially producing random encounters when a Psi fails their 6 or less roll after using their powers, they must instead roll on the Fright Check Table as if they failed their Fright Check by 5.
    • Dungeon Fantasy 19: Incantation Magic
      • Adept (Time) is not allowed
      • Please have all spells you intend to use calculated before the session and written up in a document. While calculating them in the “background” during the game should be fine, I will not wait for you to calculate a spell when an unexpected need for one presents itself. The game must go on!
    • Dungeon Fantasy Denizens: Barbarians
    • Dungeon Fantasy Setting: Caverntown
    • The Sorcerer from Pyramid #3-82.
      • Alternative Rituals from Sorcery p.7 may be used, but any time you would cast a spell for free its casting time is 2 seconds longer than normal
      • If you have more Sorcery Talent than level 5, it counts as 5 for the purposes of determining max damage.
      • You must have all spells you improvise written up ahead of time. I will not wait on you to write up an improvised spell in the middle of a game.
    • Low-Tech
    • Low-Tech Instant Armor (only hit locations from Basic Set, armor must cover all of a hit location but front-only is ok; only the armor tables, no optional armor rules)
    • Fantastic Dungeon Grappling, but you may also use the default GURPS grappling rules if you prefer. These are just better.
    • I’m willing to consider Dungeon Fantasy related stuff from other supplements if asked nicely, well in advance, under the condition that the material in question would not slow down play
    • If an individual piece of gear or an ability writeup or anything else exists in multiple sources (for example, there are armor tables in Basic, Low-Tech and DFRPG Adventurers), I generally allow whichever version is the most beneficial to the player. Ask me before using it though!
  • Optional Rules
    • Extra Effort in Combat, B357
    • New Options for Extra Effort in Combat, Martial Arts p.131
      • Heroic Charge only allows movement in a straight line towards the enemy
    • Dual-Weapon Attacks, B417
    • Last Wounds, B420
    • Random hit locations can’t intentionally be targeted
    • You may convert damage adds to dice if you wish, but it is not compulsory
    • Telegraphic Attack, Martial Arts, p.113
    • Quick-Shooting Bows, Martial Arts p.119
    • Tricky Shooting, Martial Arts p.121
    • Cross Parry, Martial Arts p.121
    • Defense While Grappling, Martial Arts p.121
    • Fencing Parries, Martial Arts p.122
    • Limiting Multiple Dodges, Martial Arts p.123
    • Parrying with Two-Handed Weapons, Martial Arts p.123
    • Multiple Blocks, Martial Arts p.123
    • Retreat Options, Martial Arts p.123
    • Rapid Strike, Martial Arts p.127
    • Slams, Tramples and Overruns, DFRPG Exploits p.40 – these are used instead of the GURPS rules
    • Evaluate gives +3 for first turn, no extra bonus for additional turns.
    • DFRPG prices for magic items are used, which means they always cost $20 per point of energy
  • Character Creation
    • Starting Points: 275
    • Disadvantage Limit: -50 plus -5 from quirks
    • Suggested Character Concepts: Appropriate for Dungeon Fantasy. You’re a band of adventurers seeking fame and fortune.
    • Profession Templates: Templates from listed Dungeon Fantasy books must be used. Smaller deviations from the templates are allowed for the first 250 points with GM approval. The extra 25 starting points may be invested in any traits appropriate to Dungeon Fantasy, including off-template except those exclusive to certain profession templates unless you fully bought the multiclass lens for that template. All of those 25 points should ideally be listed on the character sheet in a separate section to make character approval easier for me.
    • Racial Templates: All racial templates from Dungeon Fantasy 3 are potentially allowed with GM approval, except Ogre and Half-Ogre. Those are off limits. You may buy them using the discretionary template points and the 25 extra points.
    • Attributes and Secondary Characteristics: As per Dungeon Fantasy.
    • Social Traits:
      • Low/High TL: off limits
      • Status Levels: min 0, max 3
      • Rank: Only Honorary Rank
      • Wealth Levels: no min, max Very Wealthy
      • Starting Wealth: as per Dungeon Fantasy
      • Cultures: not relevant
      • Languages: as per Dungeon Fantasy
    • Advantages: As per Dungeon Fantasy.
    • Disadvantages: As per Dungeon Fantasy, but off-template disadvantages are allowed.
    • Allies/Contacts/Patrons/Enemies: off limits
    • Magic/Psionics: as per Dungeon Fantasy
    • Trading Points for Money: up to 5 points may be traded
  • Character Improvement
    • Spending points is allowed normally between sessions, except if a session break happens in the middle of a fight. In that case you’ll be able to spend points directly after the battle.
    • Learning off-template skills requires either of the following:
    • A party member present during the last session having the skill and passing a Teaching roll
    • Finding a teacher in town between sessions (who may ask for a tuition fee). A party member present during the last delve having both the skill in question and Teaching qualifies, no roll required.

Hidden Suns session 6: Heat of Battle

Date: 2018-08-21

Player Characters (344 points):
ESA1000 45460 (4-5 for organics), humanoid engineering robot
Gaichu Koschei, android infiltrator/assassin
James Titus Kane, human legendary starship Captain of the Stewards Navy (retired)
Alva von Kirchess, aasimar diva / Captain of the Knights of Golarion (retired), breach and clear specialist
Julianne Margeurite Sadayo Aletta Mackenzie Kawakami-Rose-Albert III (or just Jill), human brilliant inventor / industry mogul, dilettante adventurer/explorer

The group spent a day in their crashlanded ship, resting from the previous delve into the jungle pyramid. Gaichu’s familiar, Greg, healed Gaichu, while Jill repaired 4-5 as well as Gaichu’s and 4-5’s gear which was corroded by the gelatinous cube. The next morning they made their way to the pyramid again. From now on, there would be five people but only two of whom could pilot a hoverbike. So the solution was for Gaichu and Alva to ride with Jimmy and 4-5, while Jill was towed on another hoverbike by 4-5.

Along the way, while flying over the savannah, the group noticed a band of natives on what looked like a hunting trip. They were human-sized but big and burly, pale blue-skinned and wearing patchwork metal armor. They did not seem to have noticed the party. That changed soon, however, since Jill took a pot shot at one of them out of “curiosity”. He dropped into the grass and didn’t get up again. The others noticed the group, ducked in the grass, and started aiming towards them with what looked like primitive slughthrowers. They didn’t shoot, because the party was rather far from them and moving rapidly away on hoverbikes. A discussion ensued on what to do with the natives, but no conclusion was reached before the group flew out of eyesight.

Reaching the pyramid, the party did what became their standard procedure – they left the bikes a hundred yards away, camouflaged them, and stealthily approached the building. Everything was clear, so they proceeded below. They went through the tunnels to where they blew up the gelatinous cube, encountering nothing new on the way. They didn’t continue down that corridor, however, opting instead to go through the stone door in the north-western corner of the room. It was a bit stuck, but 4-5 effortlessly budged it open. The corridor beyond was very snaky, and even though its majority was spread to the north-east of the previous room, it eventually led to a door to the nort-west. Gaichu checked for traps, but didn’t find any.

Beyond was an 8×8 yard room, with a small dried-out fountain in the north-west corner and a stone balcony on the east side. There were stairs leading to it on its south side, and stone beds carved into the wall could be seen on top. A stone door was on the north side, under the balcony. Alva decided to take a look at the balcony, and climbed the stairs. Reaching the top, she noticed four corpses on the floor of the balcony, previously unseen because the balcony’s railing was blocking the view from below. As she approached, they started raising up and she opened fire.

She did some minor damage to one of them, and then again on the next round, when the remainder of the party could also start shooting since the corpses were now in sight having fully stood up. One of them attacked Alva, while the other three jumped in huge leaps down at the rest of the party! They went for Gaichu, 4-5 and Jimmy, attempting to impale them on the sickles they had instead of hands. Jimmy and Gaichu managed to dodge or parry their attacks, but 4-5 was “hooked”. The corpses were tough, but could for the most part not get through the party’s defenses. Jill was free to pick targets with her holdout laser while the rest were engaged, and they eventually blasted them down suffering only minor injuries, except for 4-5 who received a nasty impale from the initial jump. But Greg took care of that after a quick retreat to the surface in order to facilitate the casting of healing spells (the entirety of the Pyramid has so far been a low-mana zone).

The corpses had nothing of value on them, but there were a couple of gems in the corner of one of the stone beds. The party proceeded through the north door. The tunnel beyond was basically a big, snaky U-turn, but it was nowhere near as long as the previous one. It effectively led to a room which was directly to the west of the one where the battle against the corpses took place. The door to it was a bit stuck, but 4-5 took care of that.

Immediately after opening it, the party noticed an orange glow coming from within the chamber. It was quite large, a some 20×20 yards, with a 3-yard wide chasm at its center. The glow emanated from it, and it was crossed by a 1-yard wide stone walkway. Ancient tapestries covered the walls, and contrary to all others encountered so far, they were completely untouched by time. As most of the team were examining the tapestries (they seemed to be depicting some abstract motifs) Jimmy approached the chasm and looked down. He didn’t like what he saw – there were five giant, orange-scaled lizards clinging to the chasm wall. They hissed at him and climbed up, just as he opened fire on one of them.

The others joined the fight when the lizards were already on top. Alva advanced with her gauss shotgun, Gaichu started shooting plasma projectiles with his gauss crossbow, Jill with her plasma pistol, and 4-5 with his modified arc cutter. The beam weapons and Gaichu’s projectiles seemed to have little effect. As the lizards advanced, they breathed fire on the party. Jimmy started to retreat since the lizards were ganging up on him. Gaichu shot a tangler bolt at the biggest of the lizards, which occupied it for a couple turns. When the lizards closed in, they caused a few nasty cuts with their bites. Gaichu eventually switched to cryo and piercing bolts when he noticed his plasma bolts were ineffective. Half a dozen turns in, Jill and Alva went into melee with their knives and 4-5 with his wristblade. Jill eventually retreated, Alva kept the lizards busy but didn’t inflict much damage, while 4-5 went all-out crazy stabbing lizard skulls. Eventually, the lizards were defeated, but the party was seriously injured by bites and burns. They retreated outside of the pyramid for healing provided by Greg, and that’s where we stopped.

Multimillionaire characters in Space Dungeon Fantasy

A new player joined us last session. Their character is a multimillionaire, having invested 100 points into Wealth. This gives them 100,000 times the average starting wealth, or 5,000,000,000 GURPS $ in this case. Such characters seldom have the motivation to go raiding ancient ruins, and also kinda beat the point of Dungeon Fantasy type games where loot is one of the main goals if not the main goal of the game. But I allowed it anyway.

Why would such a person work for a “questgiver” who offers little besides a monetary incentive, in this case the explorer Archibald Grey? They wouldn’t. I instead simply retconned the character into Archibald’s place. So Jill is now the person who hired the other players, whose ship they crashed (pocket change, it’s insured anyway), and who’ll pay them at the adventure’s conclusion. After that, they’ll simply go on further adventures together. Why does she risk her life on such endeavors? Well she’s bored! It’s her hobby.

But what about the elephant in the room, what do we do with the important element of loot acquisition when Jill could simply equip the whole party with the best gear money could buy, including magical items in the case of this setting? I allowed those 100 points of wealth only under the condition that they would be used exclusively for personal purposes or for flavor. So Jill has about one million GURPS $ in her personal gear. Her armor was constructed from a tailored (Ultra-Tech p. 174-175) light hardsuit adjusted by a pile of modifiers such as Ornate, Super Fine and other, house ruled ones. Her knife, holdout laser and plasma pistol were constructed and paid for as Metatronic Generators (Pyramid 3/46) which Jill made herself since she’s also a Quick Gadgeteer. She doesn’t really have much aside from that, she simply doesn’t need it. And since I didn’t want her bankrolling the other characters, the gadgets she makes may only be used by her – it’s Weird Science after all!

For some, a setup like this could go beyond what they’re willing to accept as plausible or internally consistent or could require too much suspension of disbelief. That’s fine, I myself would not allow something like this in other campaigns. But now, for me and my current group, this is a win-win solution. A player gets to play out their fantasy, no pillars of gameplay are broken, and the GM gets some nice hooks for the story.

Hidden Suns session 5: Kaboom!

Date: 2018-08-14

Player Characters (342 points):
ESA1000 45460 (4-5 for organics), humanoid engineering robot
Gaichu Koschei, android infiltrator/assassin
James Titus Kane, human legendary starship Captain of the Stewards Navy (retired)
Alva von Kirchess, aasimar diva / Captain of the Knights of Golarion (retired), breach and clear specialist
Julianne Margeurite Sadayo Aletta Mackenzie Kawakami-Rose-Albert III (or just Jill), human brilliant inventor / industry mogul, dilettante adventurer/explorer

At the end of the previous session Gaichu found and disarmed a trap on the eastern door of the room lit by soft magical glow where they found the stone tub and a halfling corpse. Eventually, 4-5 recovered from his water-induced psychodelia, and the group started along the corridor beyond.

The corridor pretty much made a 20-yard long U-turn, and ended in an iron door facing westwards. It was rather atypical for this place, as all doors have so far been made of stone. Gaichu found two long, thin cracks in the wall, one to each side of the door, at neck’s height for an average person. He also discovered a trigger mechanism underneath the plate used as the arm rest while pushing the door to the side for the opening motion. He disarmed the mechanism, but couldn’t open the door as it was stuck. 4-5 stepped up as usual and swiftly opened it.

The room beyond was roughly 12×16 yards across, with no distinguishing features at first look aside from some remains of tapestries on the walls and minor rubble on the floor. A squared archway led into a corridor to the south, while a stone door stood on the west wall opposite the door the group just came through. They spent some time searching the room, but didn’t find anything of interest. Eventually, they decided to go through the archway and explore the way beyond.

As Gaichu turned the corner just beyond the archway, he felt as if he bumped into something big and got stuck seemingly in the air. Stuck of the sticky kind, unable to move. The rest of the group were luckily right behind him as they just entered the corridor, and they opened fire around Gaichu. Jimmy didn’t see any effect from his gauss pistols, but Alva’s gauss shotgun caused the air to “splash” at the points where she shot it. 4-5 and Jill also managed to singe the air with their weaponized plasma cutter and custom holdout laser pistol, respectively. It was a gelatineous cube! What ensued was a slowly retreating curtain of fire against the cube, as it made the slow but steady progress of 1 yard per turn towards the group. Gaichu was stuck on it but in no immediate danger since the cube’s corrosion had a way to go until it would eat significantly into his armor. He struggled to break free, fruitlessly, but managed to free his arms just enough to shoot at it every now and then. At some point, 4-5 didn’t retreat, and the cube bumped into him so he got stuck on it too. Shortly thereafter, the cube absorbed both him and Gaichu into itself.

The whole time, Alva was querying the group via their Tacnet if she should throw a plasma grenade into the cube. Now she has had enough, and finally threw it with a three-second timer. What ensued was a frenzied struggle to get Gaichu and 4-5 out of the cube before the grenade went off. They couldn’t break free from within the cube, but they did manage to hold on to their weapons and shoot the cube from the inside. But alas, it wasn’t enough and the grenade went off with Gaichu and 4-5 still inside the cube. Fortunately, the cube was big, and the grenade was stuck just far enough from them so they only received significant but not mortal damage.

When the air cleared from the explosion, the two were laying scorched on the floor, while the cube was reduced to chunks of gel scattered around the corridor. They themselves were injured, and their armor was damaged by the cube’s acids, so the group retreated back to the ship for repairs and recovery.

Short session, but the fight against the cube was hilarious. After the session, I thought that I forgot to take into account the x3 wounding modifier which is applied for internal damage, and that Gaichu and 4-5 would have been able to destroy the cube from within before the grenade blew. But taking a look at the paragraph which describes that case on B415 (Explosions in Other Environments, Internal Explosions), I see that this modifier is a result of treating the damage as an attack on the vitals, which Homogenous targets lack. So it evened out after all, and I learned something.